Local, Opinion/Comment

Council says ‘no’ to Museum sale, ‘yes’ to release of term of length of airport lease

The sale of the heritage-listed Coffs Harbour Regional Museum building has been voted down at last night’s council meeting.

By The Editor

The councillors voted 5-2 to reject an offer to sell the building for $950,000 to contribute to the funding of the proposed Cultural and Civic Space. Councillor Tegan Swan was absent from tonight’s meeting but CCO understands she would have voted against the sale too.

Saved as a building of heritage value?

Cr’s Amos, Arkan, Knight, Rhoades and Townley voted against the sale while Councillors Adendorf and Cecato voted for it.

Analysis by Coffs Coast Outlook (CCO) earlier this week and also year ago noted the proposed sale represented a 50% loss overall on the original price paid plus extensive renovations and improvements done since – See; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/?p=36516

Mayor Denise Knight, who had previously voted for the sale of the museum, told the chamber she was “on the fence” about the sale of the cultural asset, and noted its importance and significance to the community. “It’s the building itself that’s part of our history,” she said.

She also proposed the council could explore leasing the building to prevent its architecture from being lost.

Cr Sally Townley, who has voted previously, for the contentious Cultural and Civic Space (CCS) proposed for Gordon Street was emphatic in saying she believed the offer for the Museum being recommended by Council’s Executive was sub-optimal.

Cr Townley has, in the opinion of CCO, been strong in her view that all the financial arrangements proposed for the development of the CCS must stack up and not be a burden on the ratepayer and it is pleasing to see her being consistent in this regard.

Cr Townley recently polled second in an online virtual election run jointly by CCO and the Facebook page Coffs Coast Independent News – See; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/?p=36272

Cr Michael Adendorff, on the other hand, argued to accept the offer and referenced the “fairly restrictive” rules which apply to developing heritage listed buildings as being a reason as to why he supported the sale as proposed.

Cr Knight claimed that the sale would mean Council would have to find alternative funding of $1m to fund the proposed CCS.

Cr Paul Amos asked a question in regards to the CCS that many ratepayers would like an answer to, namely;”When will the development application for the Cultural and Civic Space be determined”.

General Manager Steve McGrath answered saying:

“I have been making inquiries and trying to ascertain the status and the nearest I can tell you is the assessment has been completed and it is with the minister seeking a final decision.”

Council voted unanimously to approve the demolition of the existing buildings on 28-31 Gordon Street.

The Airport Lease

Also up for discussion and consideration is the proposed length of time for the lease of the airport – details of which are “commercial in confidence” – apparently.

Proposed length of airport lease to be made available to the public

Councillor Amos, who won the online virtual election mentioned above and who has been consistently opposed to both the proposed CCS and the privatisation of Coffs Harbour Regional Airport, last night moved the following:

“Council immediately make public the proposed length of the Airport lease contract.”

Council’s Executive, true to form in our opinion, argued that “the airport lease transaction was at a sensitive stage of negotiation with a preferred bidder and that Council’s advisors do not recommend the disclosure of partial lease information at this time. For the reasons stated above, we recommend that CHCC continue to treat the proposed length of the Airport Lease, and all other terms of the transaction, commercial in confidence.

Councillors rejected this argument, one that frankly seems specious to CCO, and voted that details about the proposed length of time for the proposed lease be released.

We are unaware of who voted which way yet but will update this story when that news becomes available.

Protest outside Chambers

Before the meeting last night a covid safe protest against both the museum sale and the CCS organised by George Partos, who burnt his rate notice on Council steps last week, was held.

Protestors outside Council Chambers last night. Photo; Latitude 30 South Photography/Coffs Coast Independent News

About 20 protestors held placards in opposition. CCO has been told a senior Council figure is alleged to have said to some of the protestors; “don’t waste your time, the meeting is closed go home and watch it on line. Your petition was a hoax and only a handful of people are supporting you. Don’t be fooled by all this Facebook rubbish.”

We are also aware that earlier this year a Councillor said to another Councillor that social media audiences are non-representative and it was a waste of time communicating to citizens and ratepayers via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

Leaving aside social media is a double edge sword and it is undoubted that there are ‘pros and cons’ in regards to them it is clear in our opinion that “Councillor X” who said this needs to urgently inform current and former Presidents of the USA, and most political parties in the western world, that the resources they pour into social media are misguided and wasteful.

And of course “Councillor X” should also quickly tell the Russian security forces not to waste their time using them to try and influence elections too. 😉

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11 Comments

  1. 40cmPedestalFan

    While many are no doubt exultant, this was severely depressing to me, though a welcome result. Watching those councillors struggle, wretched within themselves, to convulse and burp and finally, exasperatingly, disgorge a wriggling little conclusion about keeping the sole remaining bastion of Coffs Harbour’s history on a prominent community site was very, very sad.

    All but Councillor Rhoades, who, fervent with what could have been a beer table reverie, regaled us all with the power of story. (The most powerful human instrument since language came to being.) Good on him.

    You’d think it would be a straight-out matter swiftly put through so as not to waste a minute on matters of contention. No argument, done.

    I find what they did and went through hard to believe.

    Where, in this country, apart from an inbred and forgotten backwater of a remote town, would such a conclusion be so difficult? That’s Coffs Harbour, 2020, and it’s appalling. Disturbing.

    Sure as you like, Councillors Dunning and Kruger were there in their finest form.

    Kruger, unusually active, actually rose and spoke. We were informed as to how the modern world works. People, apparently, don’t drive to get their culture. You get it walking past shops. He thankfully didn’t mention the millions who drive to the Sydney Opera House so they can vent in outraged protest, nor the many, many millions who fly in from every overseas country to stand there before the building to register in person their disgust.

    What an advanced and inspiring individual we have in our determinative midst. Let’s quote:

    “That’s how you do it these days. You walk past when you’re doing your shopping, step in and have a bit of a look.”

    There you go. On record. That’s the driving force behind you getting your Cultural (sic) activity in the Gordon St building. That’s the rationale. Offended by it? None of this making anything special of culture for him. Dunning is possibly even worse.

    What’s next in such an expansive mind and heart, churches? They’re part of “the old way of doing things”. They’re part of that useless and irrelevent ‘human enrichment’ absurdity that some of you misguided folk like for entertainment.

    Yep, I can see the Dunning and Kruger vision for modern churches now. Absorb it and cheer for the treasuring of something special:

    You get your chicken and chips at the City Centre shops, step into the church door next door, before the jeans shop, and have a bit of a pray. Or, if you’re not that religious, you can step in the door and get a bit married.

    • I’m moved to ask, PedestalFan, if Kruger’s comment,” You walk past when you’re doing your shopping, step in and have a bit of a look.”, is an indicator of an emphasis shift in Council’s scheme to bring hordes of tourists to view The Palace.
      Should we still rely on Council’s projected 400 plus visitors, each week, who will deviate from the bypass (when it is finished) , to gawk at a godawful Temple to The Goddess, or should we simply expect that thousands upon thousands of shoppers will simply “step in and have a look”, as they go about the business of shopping in Gordon St?
      Are there sufficient shopping outlets presently in Gordon St to attract these spenders, or does this forecast a second stage of development by Council? Is there a secret plan to develop a mega shopping mall in Gordon St, strategically located so as to bring the aforementioned shoppers past the glorious entry to the Palace, as they make their way to and from the exciting new Coffs Harbour Mega Mall (CHMM)?
      The one thing that you can be sure of, about our council, is that you can never be sure about our council.

    • You just might get your chicken and chips at Max Murray Mall on your way to Gordon Street to have “a bit of a look”.

    • 40cmPedestalFan

      Clearly Cr Adendorff is moved to actively promote development in the city centre. The concern for conflict of interest is evident, but I don’t think any conflict exists. He’s entirely right to say so. Developing any city centre is foremost on thousands of councillors around the country. In many ways it makes sense. This ideology, however, comes unstuck if it’s the presiding and only attitude. Cities do need more. Criticism, and indeed the accusation, that Cr Adendorff can’t see beyond this city centre focus is entirely warranted, not least on the basis that this CCS proposition is a pale echo of a cultural development. In fact, it’s not a development at all — as one commenter brilliantly and potently put it: after all this, the huge expense, the broken potential, the hurt, “we get back what we already have.”

      That’s not cultural development.

      There’s a little more to what Cr Adendorff said, and I’d like to take a moment to show it. The Councillor may well have been informed of a trend in cultural provision which is to try to make it more accessible. He’s perhaps seen a consultant’s paragraph on this. Perhaps all of them have. I hope so. In my other life as a human I’ve spent my life trying to do the same.

      One of the reasons Australia is known for its ockerism, boganism, and general laid back she’ll be right thing is that, due originally to physical distance, we’ve been off the ball with cultural activity that excites the public in Europe, the epicentre of our cultural heritage. The ball we get comes late and is out of date and weather-worn. We’re just not culturally developed. But it’s in us. The JMW Turner exhibition in Canberra was the biggest blockbuster of any cultural or sporting audience of all time, and may still be so. We’re people, too. We respond to cultural powers and seek them.

      Coffs Harbour, the shanty town on the coast, can I feel be held out as an example of how culture completely passes it by. That off-the-ball problem Australia has, or had, didn’t even carry that far to us. In the seventies, Coffs was the boom town of the state: statistically two families per day came here. They came for the beaches, swimming, fishing, the mountains being the closest the Dvide comes to the sea, the climate …. everything wonderfully natural about it. They didn’t come for the city’s “culture” and then it hardly mattered. Councils ever since haven’t had any imperative placed upon them to therefore respond by providing culture. We have not and are not culturally developed. That’s not to offend those who are creating and presenting. There’s just never been a political appreciation or understanding of culture in our collective councils. Still isn’t.

      So there are huge problems and barriers to overcome in order to provide the cultural enrichment humans need. Nationally, institutionally, some decided to change that.

      Patrick McCaughey took over the directorship of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1981 and shocked the beejesus out of another cemented element that was problemmatic in this country: culture until then was held by and regarded only the entitlement of the elite. Patrick, he of the flourishing bow ties, took to the national microphones and declared: “You can come into the gallery in bare feet.”

      This is 1981 – not long after the seventies – and it caused an outcry.

      But his intention? To break down the barriers and get people in. Not to “have a bit of a look” but to be enriched and changed and enlightened and inspired … inspired by the knowledge that the human being is capable of tremendous acts of beauty and vision and power and the depiction of life essences. All the wonders that happen to us naturally.

      Fast forward a few years to 1990. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra – honoured throughout the world – did the same. It decided to reach out into the community (outreach being an integral part of a true cultural plan) and said it was going to play at the Pennant Hills Performing Arts Centre. The great SSO!!! Out in, then, the quiet, staid ‘burbs.

      I’ll put you there. You’re in the performance hall (does CHCC know how that ccl achieved that?) and the full SSO is there on stage, under lights. Seats surround the curve of the stage, rising high behind you. Jam packed. The conductor quietens us all, explaining,”We are here because we know some of you don’t know we exist, what we do, what we can do for you. Instead of trying to get you to come to us, we’ve decided to come to you.”

      As he explained, it was clear the audience was not the elite hoiti toiti the orchestra thrived on and was ever used to. People came in jeans and trackies. Sure some treasured the occasion and had spent hours getting ready. But mostly it was the suburban audience you’d expect.

      Then, behind the conductor, a violinist was clearly uneasy, fidgety, then couldn’t bare it any longer. He simply got up, shaking his head, and left. Stage left.

      The conductor didn’t see it, but we did. We felt weird, then a bit concerned. Then, a couple more members of the fabled SSO looked at each other, nodded, and also got up and left. And another. We were offended, now, and confused. But this is the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and there were a lot of them. We, the audience, remained quiet.

      The conductor’s attention was caught by a bumped music stand, and turned. “Wait!” he yelled, impulsively, trying to stop the disorder so he could get a handle on what was going on. But another muso shook his head, got up, and in seconds they all protested by leaving.

      Except one. A flautist. She was obviously young, nervous. Just wanting to do the right thing, probably new to the politics and traditions of high-powered international culture. The conductor looked at her.

      One muso, one conductor. That was the SSO at Pennant Hills.

      So he conducted her. He held his elbows high, dropped his baton … and Bolero swept lyrically from the stage, up through to the highest of the seats in the back. Five notes, I think it is. That’s all. But it was mesmeric.

      A head caught our eye, poking from behind a curtain. Some muso, I can’t recall the instrument, peeking at this loveliest of playing. He crept back, sat quietly, caught up with a beat, and played.

      Now we heard two instruments, individual, and melded. It was fascinating.

      Then another muso came in. And another. Back to their seats, caught by the pleasure of music, their dedication to it, and played. And one more.

      We heard the individual strains and character of each instrument, again, individually and melded.

      Soon, in no time at all, every chair on stage was filled and the entire Sydney Symphony Orchestra was thundering melodically and seductively and sexually and movingly through the entire building. Bolero. Those five notes.

      And through that power of instrumentality you could hear, easily and clearly, that one young woman’s flute carrying it forward.

      We didn’t know whether to cry or to laugh or to scream or shout or yell and cheer. We did it all, probably. What a lesson, what a communicated message. What art, between those on stage and us.

      What a performance. It runs through me still. And performance it was. The whole thing … it was an act, a ruse. The SSO knew very well that many in the audience, like me, didn’t have a clue about their art. So they shook us into complete attention, strenuously engaged from the outset, and delivered us a lesson in music, how each instrument stayed true to itself yet became as one, and gave us in effect an act of human love.

      Is that what Councillor Adendorff was alluding to?

      That we all have a place in the arts, that we all own the rights to it, and that culture is as we make it and we benefit greatly by its easier access?

      You decide. I hope so. I know Councillor Dunning doesn’t have a clue.

      I know also Councillor and Mayor Denise Knight also doesn’t have a clue. None of what I’ve shared with you here is in their minds.

      How do I know this? It’s demonstratively evident. Anyone who knows culture, its powers, charms, mystery and joy, wouldn’t vote for that building in Gordon St.

      It’s just not a cultural building.

      It’s not value for money, when an equivalent spend (though a proper plan and facility can be achieved for much less) would deliver to the citizens of the Coffs Harbour region an experience I’ve mentioned, just briely, for all these words, above.

      And deliver a hell of a lot more.

      I’ve used the term “Adult Cutural Infantalism” to describe a mindset that, through no fault of its own, is by its nature incapable of understanding the personal and societal value in this comment.

      I’m afraid that this “cultural infantalism” is constricting the possible. Got it by the neck.

      So while it’s true that “the modern way” includes … note, includes … bringing culture into city centres to make them more accessible, it isn’t a carte blanche rule because it depends entirely on the individual city. A proper cultural plan and provision is enacted on a city by city, case by case, basis.

      “We get back what we’ve already got.”

      The Gordon St proposition is not a cultural proposition, not a cultural building. Like the billions of other people around the world who cherish their cultural life, personal and societal enrichment, we in Coffs Harbour will have to drive for ours.

      Please remember … all we need is one Councillor of those four to change their mind, if not heart.

  2. Some observations:
    A person who sits on a fence frequently ends up with splinters in their arse. Could this mean that, in our particular case, our own pain in the arse might have a pain in the arse?
    Has Sally Townley started to do as she promised in her pre-election spiel, and brought some common sense to council decision-making?
    Is there even the slightest hope that Sally will also see the light with respect to Knight’s Memorial Chambers, and join the opposition?
    Given that McGrath has stated that the DA for The Palace is with the minister, seeking a final decision, should we now bombard the minister, again, with our objections?
    Could we run a competition to guess the identity of the senior Council figure who is alleged to have said to some of the protestors; “don’t waste your time, the meeting is closed go home and watch it on line. Your petition was a hoax and only a handful of people are supporting you. Don’t be fooled by all this Facebook rubbish.”?
    Given that “Councillor X” is clearly as dumb as dog shit, not having even the limited real-world awareness exhibited by Donald Trump, we should hope that this person will become “ex-Councillor X”, as soon as we can have an election.

  3. Paririe Rose

    Any truth in the rumour that Councillor X may be one of 40cmpdestalfan’s Councillors Dunning and Kruger (ROTFLMAO)!?

    Also any truth that Crs Dunning and Kruger were the last two elected Councillors whose combined primary votes would barely fill a London double decker bus?

  4. If HRH Mayor Knight is concerned about having to find another million from somewhere on account of not selling the museum, where does she expect to find the c.$31,000,000 that’s been imposed on CHCC resulting from the recent (first of three) court actions in respect of the waste management debacle….?
    Sounding a little desperate – I reckon so.

    And besides, what’s a mere One Million Dollars to this gal when she intends spending well over One Hundred Million on her glass house shrine and remains happy to keep paying hundreds of thousands each month to have our waste carted away.

    Methinks we’re being taken for fools.

  5. 40cmPedestalFan, re your comment at 10:23 .
    WOW ,Well done ,you got my attention , great story, and I agree with you about the snobbery that seems to go with those who blurb on about cultural development .

    • 40cmPedestalFan

      I had Bolero going through my head for a few hours afterwards, Bill! But I’m not complaining. Yes, we in Coffs have both ends of the problem: the culturally infantile – if not hostile (“shouldn’t spend money on the arts”) – and those who regard it as elite. The latter, locally, is very few. However, I do know one developer who is part of the small few in Coffs, who just may be the one who put the offer to Council regarding the last, sole historical site in Coffs Harbour – the same site CCO has reported on for us here and where Councillors Dunning and Kruger were bending over backwards to urgently sell off – who gets his culture … where? He told me. As with great performances or exhibitions and experiences, we talk about them. (Word of mouth.) He’s standing there with a crisp, $300 shirt on, one of the City’s buildings he owns behind him, passionately ranting about his latest cultural experience that he had… in where else but the Louvre, Paris.

      We’re damned either way. Cultural infantalism (or ignorance) on the one hand who don’t even know what it really is, let alone what it can do, and those who take away community land and opportunities then flying out of town with their pockets full, getting their culture elsewhere after raiding the community bank, on the other.

  6. 40cmPedestalFan

    If anyone’s interested a little more, this might help clear up why the Gordon St proposition cannot in 2020 reasonably be called a cultural building. It won’t make you feel very good, I’m sorry. 

    The obvious point firstly is the Cultural and Civic Space building is a council office building. All said on that. Except this: Anyone looking happily forward to having their cultural experience knowing a General Manager is sitting in a big office right above your head?  (This is possibly the first time Dante’s Inferno isn’t welcome in coming to mind.)

    The next point can be made by starting with a question.  What do you call a place that comprises four hundred houses?  It’s possibly too small for a hamlet.  Whatever it is, you can picture it.  Travel the country anywhere and you’ll find this place, out there a long way between two townships.  Alone.  Four hundred homes.  What else do you find there?  You find a red Postal Box and beside it a little glass box on a stand, with a swinging glass door.  Inside that glass box are books.

    Now, I’m not saying that’s a library.  What I am saying is that community is providing books for itself.  Four hundred homes, and a place to go to get a book and read it.

    That’s beautiful.  (Some actually have a little sign: “Community Library”.)

    Let’s go to another place, this has two thousand homes. These people have organised for themselves a space where local paintings and perhaps wood-turned bowls are displayed.  That’s a gallery.

    Now let’s diminish the number to just a single home, in the middle of nowhere.  One very alone house.

    Out the front, within its low-built little wire fence, are some plants flowering. Beside these is an old buggy, on a tilt, weathered by a century of rains, with rusted steel-spoked wheels.  Or maybe an old horse-drawn plough.

    Now, I’m not saying that’s a museum.  But I am saying that a person in that one house is respecting history. Not only that, history is being displayed proudly.

    So we have here books, a gallery, and history, provided and on display.   All achieved by those people by themselves. No Council.

    2000 houses, 400 houses, and 1 house.  Books, gallery and history.  Proudly provided. This is what we people do. With little resources and little money, we do it by ourselves.

    Coffs Harbour in the seventies was a town of 25,000 people when as described above it was the premiere boom town of NSW.  People moving here enlarged it from a category Town into a City.  Its population today is 72,000.

    Coffs Harbour City Council, today, with all of its resources at hand, is trying to provide for our community in what it is calling its cultural plan an extremely expensive building in Gordon St. This new building will provide books, gallery and history.

    With me?

    Here’s Mayor Denise Knight, under the official typeface promotional letterhead and speaking for our current Coffs Harbour City Council:

    This is certainly shaping up to be a place of progress that we will all be very proud of.

    Here is Mayor Denise Knight again:

    This is about the future and giving Coffs people a modern, safe and central place to learn, hangout and be inspired.  It’s a lot more than you realise with something for everybody, 7 days a week.

    Mayor Denise Knight again:

    It is a key part of putting our city centre on the map especially beyond the bypass.  Having a landmark building such as this will give people that reason to turn off and take the Coffs exit.  Frankly it is what all great cities of Australia have.

    That is cultural infantalism.

    So let’s be clear about our cultural development. We are getting, as a long-time famous regional city of 72,000 people, in this modern age, with all of Council’s resources available, nothing more in this building than the absolute basics. We are getting in this proposed building nothing more culturally than what that lone house has provided for itself, the little place of 400 homes has provided for itself, and the hamlet of 2000 has provided for itself.

    Books, gallery and history. When it comes to human culture, and limited Western culture at that, this is The. absolute. basics.

    Yet our current Coffs Harbour City Council is loudly and proudly declaring the Cultural and Civic Space is a “cultural development”. And it will again. I won’t embarrass our Mayor by repeating her words here. By all means have a look at them again.

    Time after time the Cultural and Civic Space, lauded as high achievement, has come to us on the CHCC letterhead with full Council promotional regalia.  It has a lot of people believing it. Council rests on the technicality that cultural activity can occur in their proposition because it houses books, a gallery and history (though the latter after Thursday’s meeting is now actually wobbly).

    But the. absolute. basics. is a bar too low for the Gordon St building to be reasonably called a cultural building. Even without council offices it is an infantile portrayal. When a city’s Council uses the term ‘cultural building’ as its pinnacle achievement its citizens can in this modern age rightly expect more than. the. absolute. basics.

    Try to believe it. It’s true:

    CHCC is slated to spend, in its own written terms, seventy-six million dollars to provide us with the. absolute. basics. While we already have the. absolute. basics.

    —–oo—

    I really don’t want to end on a negative, but I’m at a loss to see any common sense here. Julian has raised the DA. I fear, good man, that it will pass on technicalities, and that result will be sold to us in the way Mayor Knight has above. I fear also that if built, instead of Coffs Harbour being a shining light for what is culturally possible, Coffs Harbour under these four councillors and the General Manager will become infamous and laughed at for decades when this misadventure is exposed nationally.

    In these present days the lengthy Coffs Harbour story has come to a crossroads.

    If the path we’re on continues, eventually this CHCC will be caught out, exposed by more than what Denise Knight dismisses as a vocal few. Everything on these pages and everything on social media, everything that is flippantly dismissed, everything spoken in our homes and the street is likely instead to transfer into the national voice and onto the national pages and television screens. By then it will be too late for these few decision-makers to realise what they’ve done. It’s not a pretty story.

    $76 million of precious money – our money – to provide us with the absolute basics that we already have.

    True synopsis. National story.

    Then, can you imagine? Just one of those with a change of mind or heart – all that’s needed to make the better change in our history being written right now.

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